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Anne Tyng: Inhabiting Geometry
APR 15, 2011 - JUN 18, 2011

This exhibition presents the work of the visionary architect and theorist Anne Tyng.  Since the 1950s, when she worked closely with Louis I. Kahn and independently pioneered habitable space-frame architecture, Tyng has applied natural and numeric systems to built forms on all scales, from urban plans to domestic spaces.  This exhibition features room size models of the five platonic solids (the tetrahedron, cube, octahedron, dodecahedron and icosahedron).  Identified in ancient times, the platonic solids are the only regular equilateral and equiangular polyhedra.  These forms can be found in nature, such as in the structure of crystals.  The installation, together with archival material, illustrates the synthesis of Tyng’s life-long research on advanced geometry and how she derives her own built forms through the symmetries, orders, and dynamic progressions by which one form in geometry becomes another.

Demonstrating this vision at work is a selection of drawings, models, and other documentation of past projects, including: City Tower (with Kahn, 1952-1957); Urban Hierarchy (1970); and the Four-Poster House (1971-1974). There are also examples of Tyng’s publications and research, which investigate Jungian cycles, city squares, and the cosmos. Throughout, geometry is both rational and expressive, as much a means of contemplation as of calculation and construction.

In 1965, Anne Tyng was one of the first women to receive a fellowship from the Graham Foundation for her project Anatomy of Form: The Divine Proportion in the Platonic Solids.  In her research she developed a theory of hierarchies of symmetry—symmetries within symmetries—and a search for architectural insight and revelation in the consistency and beauty of all underlying form.  A portion of this research was published in the article Geometric Extensions of Consciousness in the Italian architectural journal Zodiak #19 in1969. 

“Tyng’s ideas, supported by the Graham Foundation over 45 years ago, resonate deeply with contemporary architects who are working with complex geometry as a source for new forms in building,” notes Sarah Herda, Director of the Graham Foundation. “She was at the forefront of experimentation in the field, and this exhibition introduces her work to new generations who are also working to push the spatial potential of architecture.”

Anne Tyng (b. 1920 Jiangxi, China; lives San Francisco) was among the first women to receive a Masters of Architecture from Harvard University. Starting in 1947, she worked closely with Louis I. Kahn and was instrumental in the design of the Trenton Bath House and Yale University Art Gallery, among other projects. After 1968, she focused her attention on research, earning a doctoral degree from the University of Pennsylvania where she taught for almost thirty years.

Anne Tyng: Inhabiting Geometry is organized by the Institute of Contemporary Art Philadelphia (ICA) and curated by ICA Senior Curator Ingrid Schaffner; consulting curator Srdjan Jovanovic Weiss, Assistant Professor, Tyler School of Art and Architecture, Temple University; and William Whitaker, Curator and Collections Manager, The Architectural Archives, University of Pennsylvania. Additionally, Director of the Graham Foundation, Sarah Herda and Program Coordinator, Ellen Hartwell Alderman contributed to the Chicago exhibition.

A catalog co-published by the Institute of Contemporary Art Philadelphia and the Graham Foundation, will be available summer 2011 and distributed by DAP.

ICA is grateful to the Edna W. Andrade Fund of The Philadelphia Foundation and the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts for their generous support. We acknowledge Barbara B. & Theodore R. Aronson for their generous sponsorship of the exhibition catalog. Our thanks to Korin and Larry Korman, Archer & Buchanan Architecture, Ltd., and KieranTimberlake Associates LLP for additional project funding. ICA is also grateful for support from the: Cheri S. & Steven M. Friedman Vision Endowment Fund; Howard A. Silverstein & Patricia B. Silverstein Exhibition Endowment Fund; Dorothy A. Weber & Stephen R. Weber Endowment Fund; and Lawrence Reichlin. Additional funding has been provided by The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation; The Dietrich Foundation, Inc.; the Overseers Board for the Institute of Contemporary Art; friends and members of ICA; and the University of Pennsylvania. ICA receives state arts funding support through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.

The Architectural Archives at the University of Pennsylvania would like to thank Korin and Larry Korman.


Images from Anne Tyng's 1965 Graham Foundation grant proposal, "Anatomy of Form: The Divine Proportion in the Platonic Solids."